The Beginning of the End for Stadia
This was bound to happen sooner rather than later, and one is actually surprised that Stadia held out this long. Stadia was not a strong concept, so it really could not afford to fail right out of the gate with terrible execution on this weakish concept – which is exactly what happened. The service required a subscription fee, the full priced purchase of games, and then it did not even function correctly. It then found itself going up against Xbox’s Xcloud service, which is functional, and has access to Microsoft’s popular Xbox Game Pass service. Competing with Xcloud over the small audience for streaming games was always going to be a hard ask for Stadia, but after messing up the implementation this is more weight than the Stadia concept was realistically able to carry.
As such, this week marks the begging of the end for Stadia. Google had previously established a studio called Stadia Games & Entertainment, tasked with development of exclusive content for Stadia, and led by ex-Ubisoft executive Jade Raymond. This week Google has announced the closure of this studio, indicating that they do not really see much of a future in the service. As of now Google are simply running Stadia as a face-saving enterprise. The service will begin seeing increasingly fewer game releases, and we will begin seeing increasingly less written about it in the media, until one day it just dries up and blows away like Google Plus, with hardly a single person noticing. By the time that the plug is pulled on Stadia everyone who initially bought into it will have long since been converted over to Xcloud due to increasingly poor support for the service by Google. This is the way these things tend to go. But of course Phil Harrison is still attempting to put a positive spin on things:
In 2021, we’re expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players. We see an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools. We believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry.
If Google is really lucky they might be able to spin off and sell their Stadia business to another company that is better able to utilise the infrastructure, but that does not seem overly likely. There seems to be a much greater likelihood that in a couple of years support for the service will simply vanish, and anyone who bought into it will have their games vanish into the ether. Which is pretty much what they deserve for buying into any service operated by Google.
Goldeneye Xbox 360 Remake Leaked Online
Downloadable game content is often viewed as the biggest threat to game preservation in the current day. Ironic then that it is the sole reason that this long desired HD port ever saw the light of day. Partnernet was an Xbox 360 developer area with very poor security, as all that was required to gain access was possession of a developer kit. Scores of Xbox Live Arcade games were available on Partnernet months before their release, mostly for the purpose of previews and reviews. During this period (around 2007) Rare was involved in producing a whole bunch of HD ports of their more popular N64 games such as Banjo Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Goldeneye was no exception to this, however the release did not quite pan out, as there were simply too many licensees involved to nail down a release for the game. EON Productions owned the rights to the franchise, Nintendo had licensed those rights for the original N64 release, while Microsoft was now attempting to get limited access to this license for the purpose of re-releasing Goldeneye, and Activision was in fact the current holder of the James Bond video game license (and would in fact go on to develop their own forgettable version of Goldeneye). The situation was a mess, and the game never saw official release.
Rare composer Grant Kirkhope described it like this:
Microsoft, Nintendo and Eon could never agree on terms, and that’s before you even start to consider getting all the original movie actors to agree to have their likenesses used again.
Obviously our story does not end there though. Rare must have been relatively confident of being able to release the game, because they had developed a near complete version of the game. And so it was that for less than an hour back in 2007 the Goldeneye HD port was (seemingly mistakenly) uploaded to Partnernet, and during this period anyone in possession of an Xbox 360 developer kit was able to download a copy for themselves. This is where the game leak has come from. It was downloaded in 2007, and then just proceeded to sit on a hard drive for fourteen years until someone saw fit to leak it onto the internet!
Now anyone with access to a developer kit, and probably also anyone with a modded 360 can download the game and play it natively. At the moment however, more people seem to be accessing it through the aptly named Xenia emulator (it is like they knew!), and it appears to run pretty well. Goldeneye was really the progenitor of console FPS multiplayer, so it would be amazing if, given enough time, people were able to get the game’s online multiplayer working through Xenia.
Bioware Continues to Destroy Own Legacy
The rotting EA skinsuit that is Bioware appears to no longer be satisfied in destroying their franchises going forward, and have now turned their glance backwards to retroactively destroying some of the last ‘good’ games that the company ever released, with this year’s HD rerelease of the Mass Effect trilogy. Granted, one would argue that only the first game in this trilogy was actually good, and it was made less so by the way that the second and third parts fell flat – but there are plenty of people who would disagree with this claim, and who genuinely want this re-release. Well, it turns out that any gamer looking forward to this release better be ready for the liberal application of censorship. The Mass Effect trilogy was released in some of the final years where it was still acceptable for Western games to feature any kind of female sex appeal, and the fact that Mass Effect does not depict its characters as disgusting pigs poses some significant problems for Bioware.
Speaking to Metro, the remaster’s project director Mac Walters confirmed that the game’s camera angles were being adulterated so as not to offend mentally ill people:
I do think a lot of things have evolved since [the original games] but I don’t know if I would say we were ultra-concerned about it or anything like that, but there were considerations.
[…] Kevin actually called out some camera cuts that were just… why was that focusing on Miranda’s butt? So in some cases we said, ‘Okay, we can make a change there’. But ultimately, to change an entire character model or something like that wasn’t really… it was a decision that was made as part of many creative decisions and just showing it at the best possible fidelity that we could going forward is really the choice for all of the art that we had.
This specifically goes against the game’s original creative vision, as the Miranda character was genetically engineered for sex appeal, and the camera angles that are being censored were used as visual shorthand to convey this information to the player:
Casey Hudson: That’s part of her character design, she’s the femme fatale. It’s part of her character and the fact that she’s beautiful and this beauty is part of what helps her. As you get to know her, you realise there’s more to her.
David Silverman: The fact is, some characters are defined by their attractiveness, such as a woman who is genetically engineered to be perfect. Camera angles help tell the story and portray key aspects of each character – in Miranda’s case, her curves and sexuality. We had similar shots of Jacob.
Hilariously, when asked whether the team would go in and fix the terrible cop out ending to Mass Effect 3, which would actually require some kind of effort, the team declined, saying that they would not want to change the ending that players loved. So it is fine to censor the hell out of the Miranda scenes for being too sexy, but suddenly Mass Effect 3‘s RGB ending has become sacred!
Whenever we’ve ever discussed doing the remaster, I think you put all options on the table to start with, right? But you need to keep what I think is the heart of what the franchise was, what people remember it to be – which is the choices that you made, the characters that you meet, the encounters you’ve had with them – and sort of draw a line in the sand and say, ‘No, that is what people loved and that’s what they remember’.
And sure, you know the controversy around the ending. And we understand, I certainly understand, how that didn’t hit with some people. But I don’t think you suddenly just go in and try to change anything in that regards.
No, you certainly would not want to go in and fix the ending that everyone universally loved, Bioware! It is great to see THAT is where they chose to draw the line! A little bit of censorship is fine, but we cannot allow the red, green, and blue endings to be sullied for future generations – or at least not until the Colourblind Union of America comes knocking, and they are forced to impliment a grey filter!